An independent report into Australia’s Black Summer bushfires has recommended sweeping changes to land clearing practices and the creation of an international research center to investigate extreme fire behavior. The 2019-2020 disaster was unprecedented in scale. The Gospers Mountain fire north of Sydney was the largest forest fire ever recorded in Australia, burning more than 500,000 hectares.
More aggressive hazard reduction, or controlled burn-offs that can reduce the severity of future bushfires, would make Australia safer, according to an independent panel.
However, previous research has shown that as conditions get hotter and drier, it becomes less effective. But the report wants landowners in high-risk areas to increase prescribed burning. It also said that climate change was one of many factors that made last summer “so extraordinary”. The fires were fueled by record-breaking temperatures and a long drought across southern and eastern Australia.
New South Wales state premier Gladys Berejiklian says global warming is making the country more vulnerable.
“The next fire season is already upon us, so the government has taken every action we can already in response to the recommendations that we received. We do also have to also accept that in addition to the issues that have been canvassed this morning, our climate is changing and those who wrote the report actually acknowledge that our climate is changing,” Berejiklian said.
The New South Wales state government has accepted each of the panel’s 76 recommendations.
The report has called for more scientific research into fighting fires, including the use of artificial intelligence and drones to help put them out quickly. It said the answer was not more fire trucks or firefighters.
Critics of the inquiry have reportedly said it was lackluster and contained no significant recommendations.
The Black Summer fires killed more than 30 people and destroyed thousands of homes.
For the first time ever catastrophic fire conditions had been forecast for Australia’s biggest city, Sydney.
Ominously, the panel warned that Australia should expect to see similar conditions, or worse, to happen again.